Six students from the California State University, Dominguez Hills Division of Health Sciences clinical science program have been awarded scholarships for 2011-2012 by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), a professional organization in the field, in partnership with sponsor Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics. Christy Chung, Alex Funk, Marianela Hechavarria, Haixia Huang, and Lissette Renteria were each awarded a $1,000 Siemens-ASCP Scholarship, and Annie Tran was awarded a $2,000 Siemens Legacy Scholarship.
This year, the ASCP awarded a total of $125,000 in scholarships, ranging in amounts from $500 to $2,000, to a select group of students nationwide. The scholarships are available to students in their final year of study—typically when students are in internships at medical facilities— and are awarded based on academic achievement and professional goals. The names of all award recipients will be published by ASCP in the April issue of Laboratory Medicine.
[March 13 Editor’s Note: A total of 114 scholarship awards nationwide were granted by ASCP for 2012, of which the CSU Dominguez Hills students were five among 50 clinical laboratory scientists to receive the Siemens-ASCP Scholarship and one of 11 to receive the legacy scholarship. ]
For any university a single student winning a scholarship in a single year would be an impressive accomplishment, so six is something special, said Cheryl Jackson-Harris, program coordinator and professor of the clinical sciences program at CSU Dominguez Hills.
“At first, I thought they made a mistake because they give so few [scholarships]. [To] have so many from one program is almost unheard of,” said Jackson-Harris.
For clues to explain the unprecedented number of winners, Jackson-Harris looked not only to the scholarly achievements of the students from CSU Dominguez Hills she nominated, but also the quality of the essays that they submitted with their applications, and the extensive community service they provided.
The scholarship recipients have all served as volunteers, ranging from tutoring church groups to serving as a judge at Los Angeles County and California state science fairs. Tran, a senior and the only Siemens-ASCP Scholarship recipient from CSU Dominguez Hills working toward a bachelor’s degree in CLS (all others are getting their post-baccalaureate certificate), volunteers in the precision diagnostics laboratory at Garden Grove Hospital Medical Center, in addition to working as an intern at Kaiser Regional Reference Laboratory in North Hollywood. Hechavarria, who has a Bachelor of Science in microbiology from the Universidad del Este in Puerto Rico (‘09) and is conducting her internship at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Los Angeles, volunteers at the Good Shepard Shelter in Los Angeles. Chung, who has a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from CSU Long Beach (’08) and is interning at Quest Diagnostic Laboratories, volunteers her time teaching Vietnamese to a group of children at a non-profit kindergarten school in Garden Grove.
As of fall 2011, 159 students were enrolled in the university’s program. Jackson-Harris said there are currently 43 students who have completed the pre-clinical component and are now fulfilling their state regulated one-year clinical internship, which is conducted at one of the program’s 15 affiliated laboratories or medical facilities: Southern California Permanente Medical Group (Kaiser) Regional Laboratory, Kaiser Medical Centers at Los Angeles and Bellflower (Limited), Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Huntington Hospital of Pasadena, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Northridge Medical Center, Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center, Providence Saint Joseph’s Medical Center in Burbank, Quest Diagnostics Laboratories, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Torrance Memorial Medical Center, VA Healthcare System in Long Beach and Los Angeles
During their internships the students will work as scientists, rather than technicians who are not responsible for higher complexity testing or interpretation of laboratory test results, according to Funk, who is conducting his internship at Northridge Medical Center and has a Bachelor of Science in microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics from University of California at Los Angeles (’09).
“As a clinical laboratory scientist, we perform complex tests in the hospital laboratory, and provide the results and our subsequent interpretations to the physician,” said Funk. “In layman’s terms, anytime you go to the doctor and provide him with a sample—blood, urine, a swab of some sort—he sends it down to us and we run whatever tests he orders and give him the results as quickly as possible. It is very rare these days for doctors to do any of the actual testing themselves; they rely on the CLS to get them the results so they can make an accurate diagnosis and focus on treating the patient.”
Upon completion of the program, undergraduate students such as Tran, will receive a bachelor’s in clinical science, a certificate in clinical laboratory science, and will become eligible to take the State of California practitioner’s license.
The nationally ranked and well-known program at CSU Dominguez Hills is the only CSU campus and one of only two California institutions of higher learning to offer a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Science. About 60 percent of students who come through the program already have a bachelor’s degree and are pursuing a post-baccalaureate certificate, according to Jackson-Harris. Others have arrived to the program with higher degrees, but seek certification because they are interested in working in the clinical side of the biomedical industry, where certification is mandatory.
Preferring the structure of clinical laboratory science, Huang who has a bachelor’s degree in biology (’97) and a doctorate in pathology (’03) from Shanghai Medical University, said whether someone chooses medical laboratory science (MLS)—where non-diagnostic research is conducted—or CLS, largely depends on personal preference.
“Some enjoy research projects, dealing with the unknown. But in clinical labs, we pretty much know what we’re doing each day. It’s really organized and highly regulated,” Huang said.
Reasons vary, but often practitioners leave the research side of laboratory science for financial stability, which was a consideration for scholarship recipient Renteria, a CSU Dominguez Hills alumna (Class of ’06, B.S., biology), who chose CLS even though she enjoys research.
“Looking in the long term, it’s harder to keep a job [in research]. Unless you get government funding, it can be very difficult,” Renteria said.
The six scholarship recipients agreed that they came to CSU Dominguez Hills because of its location, affordability, and small size, so being recognized among the students nationwide was even more rewarding.
As part of the program, students also attend classes on campus, including academic theory discipline, which prepares students for certification and the state license exam. Jackson-Harris, who in 2006 was named ASCP Educator of the Year, said, last year all 40 students from CSU Dominguez Hills program who took the certification exam passed it on their first try. Students also take a research methods course, and a laboratory management and career preparation class, in which, among other things, they learn how to write résumés and hone their interview skills.